Fat Safe

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Me and my mom embarking on a Caribbean cruise back in 2005.

I can count the number of times I felt beautiful on one hand.

The first time, a boy named Bobby joined the rest of us neighborhood kids for a game of kick ball. Me and Thahn were bickering good-naturedly when I overheard, “Is she your girlfriend?” I looked over at this tall, lanky blond with the shy smile, just as Thahn, the prick, recoiled at the thought. But Bobby just beamed. He would sneak looks back at me in the cafeteria from across several tables, or in our English Honors class, blushing. We played basketball in his driveway, threw a frisbee in the middle of Juniper Street, sat on his front porch in comfortable silence. He taught me how to say “I Love You” in German. That spring and early summer were the best times of my life. Textbook.

The second time, I was out of college in my early 20s. My friends and I were at a nightclub overlooking Waikiki Beach, dancing up a storm. INXS’s “New Sensation” played when this tall, handsome blond came over and shyly asked if he could dance with me. We danced through two songs when he apologized, signaling for the restroom and begging me to stay put. He rushed back to dance one more when one of my friends, the troublesome one, threw a fit because nobody asked her to dance. She demanded I drive her home. I had to leave without saying goodbye. He was the first guy who ever asked me to dance. I never got his name.

If I could rewind my life, try again, I would. Maybe different parents, parents who treated me like a girl instead of a handicap or a punching bag. Maybe a brother who didn’t constantly deflect by calling me psycho and blimp.

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Good Lord. At my worst vacationing back in Hawaii, 2010.

Other than these two times, I’ve never felt truly beautiful. How could I?

I survived physical and emotional abuse, molestation and date rape.

My relationships have been short-lived or disastrous: a closeted gay, a Ninja in his own mind, a freak, a hermit who hated going out in public with me, an English professor who used me to play out a B movie about manic-depression and saving the pudgy girl in sweat pants.

The sex hasn’t exactly been movie-worthy, either. Mostly backwoods, back-alley shit. Furtive groping shot in the dark. Gross. The feeling you get after sneaking porn on your dad’s cable box.

My problem is that I don’t want to be beautiful. I can’t handle the baggage.

I’d rather be safe.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that an awful lot of overweight people have been violated in the worst way first.

I can hide under all this fat. I can avoid attention, good or bad.

My mom says I’m not pretty. My dad says I’m not good enough. My brother says I’m a huge psycho nobody will ever want to marry.

Bullies say I’m a flat-faced, slant-eyed gook jap chink go back where you came from go kill yourself.

I fought back a few times, got right with my body… But, I wasn’t comfortable with the attention focused on my tight ass, my shapely tits, my long ballerina-like neck. That’s what my molesters zeroed in on, too, making a mockery of what I should’ve been proud of.

Beautiful? That’s what Linda used to say over and over in her shed as she pawed over my 11-year-old body. I thought she was my best friend in sixth grade. How fucking stupid was I? Later, she wrote, “sick pertry” over her yearbook photo, after she soiled herself over the goods.

I learned real fast to keep my head down, to blend in, to be as invisible as possible.

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Me as a child, before the world came in.

I married a man who was afraid he wasn’t attracted to me, because, and I quote, “You aren’t my dream girl.” He tried to break up with me a month into dating, because he just couldn’t see himself with me, the antithesis of his beloved Elle Macpherson.

Instead of walking away, I held on, thinking this man was the best I was going to get. I felt comfortable, I felt safe with him. So, that was love in my world.

I know that he wanted to run many times, especially after I ballooned up past the point of no return a decade and some change after we tied the knot. I could feel his contempt. My mom would visit and add insult to injury, commenting, “Why he never open doors for you? Why you have to carry groceries? Maybe ’cause you gain so much weight. You need to make yourself look nice for your husband.”

If I were him, I would’ve left me years ago for that supermodel in his mind.

I could’ve at least tried to get back into shape. I did it before.

Maybe I gave up. Maybe it was too easy to go with the flow, let the stronger personalities take over, focus on my family over my own needs.

Maybe I simply didn’t care what I looked like anymore.

Until I had no choice.

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Me today, before our Montana trip over Labor Day Weekend.

What did it for me was visiting a friend who went past pre- into full-blown diabetes, along with a host of other afflictions. I didn’t want to be like her. That was five years ago.

I dropped a lot of weight through a lot of hard work and self-deprivation. I’m not quite there yet, though. I go up and down, depending on vacations, weekends, a movie night out, mapo tofu. Sometimes reaching 130 pounds, never mind 165, seems so far away, so goddamned impossible, so fucking pointless.

Yet, I persevere, so that I can stick around for my family. Every time I eat right and exercise, I regain a piece of myself. I redefine what it means to be beautiful — not on their terms, but my own.

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“IT’s” Pennywise, the Walking, Farting Clown Balloon

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Don’t be scared. It’s okay! Sarah and I got through “IT!”

I confess, I kept putting “IT” off.

The reviews, previews, and social media chatter scared me. Turns out, they scared me more than the movie did.

It helps to have read the Stephen King novel first. For any movie adaptation. You can split your attention from the movie, to the movie maker’s attention to the novel detail. Less chance for sudden cardiac arrest, ’cause you’re more prepared for the next surprise attack, too.

Once my friend Sarah and I got over the initial horror of watching Pennywise, the clown, lure Bill’s younger brother to his violent, sewer death (there, I saved you the first heart attack), the rest of this movie isn’t that hard to sit through.

A few moviegoers have likened “IT The Movie” to “Stand By Me,” a 1986, Rob Reiner-directed film adaptation of another Stephen King story. Both feature compelling child actors and future stars bringing the cast of unlikely heroes — the losers club — to vibrant life.

They create a story within a story. They are, in fact, the heart of this “horror” story.

It’s not really a true horror film, anyway. Not like “Exorcist” was. Now, that was some scary shit. I had nightmares for years after, sure that Satan and his minions would take possession over me next.

“IT” is really about the power of friendship. These childhood friends are so powerful that, in the novel, they defeat the monster an entire town succumbed to since its inception. Not only that, in true King fashion, they are also outcasts hampered by what society would view as handicaps: Bill, the reluctant leader, stutters; Bevy, the beautiful spark of courage, suffers from an unfounded bad reputation as the town whore (her father molests her); Ben’s extremely smart with the heart of a romantic poet buried deep inside, but he’s terribly overweight; Eddie, the precocious hypochondriac, has asthma (or so he thinks); Mike, the only black kid around, is, well, black in a small town of mostly white people; and on and on it goes.

These outcasts are drawn together by the monsters in the town, both real (bullies) and imagined (the clown). Together, they discover exquisite joy in spite of the darkness, the kind of joy you earn the hard way, the kind old people reminisce about on their death beds: spending summers doing what every kid should, jumping off cliffs, swimming in the lake, riding their bikes, sunning themselves, chilling to music, talking about their dreams, going through adventures… things we Baby Boomers and some Millennials fondly remember doing before the advent of the ultimate childhood killer — “The Cell.”

But that’s for another Stephen King movie.

Weeks before “IT” came out, everybody was talking about Bill Skarsgård’s terrifying new clown.

I found Tim Curry’s Pennywise scarier in the 1990 miniseries. The British actor (“The Rocky Horror Picture Show”) played it for real, so you could imagine this actually happening down your street. His clown emanated evil, as if born and bred for possession. That’s horror.

Skarsgård was more … cartoonish, maybe? Especially toward the end. He reminded me of a blow-up clown, a balloon, or child’s toy come to life but just barely.

Even in the first scene with Georgie, Skarsgård’s clown seemed almost bored, as if amped up on Ritalin toward the end of his carnie pitch. Yeah, that’s it. This Pennywise acted like a creepy man-child — hiding an unspeakably brutal past.

In the book, Pennywise is almost more terrifying than the demons in “Exorcist,” and I’m not kidding. If you started with “The Shining,” you know what I mean.

The only letdown was the ending, when the grown kids confront the source of all the evil projection. **Spoiler below**

It’s a goddamned spider the size of Jabba, the Hut. WTF, that’s IT?!

I sure hope TPTB go deeper in the sequels, the next movie, and another TV miniseries, I hear.

My husband and son refuse to see “IT,” period. They won’t even listen to me talk about it. I think my husband could, if he focused on the “Stand By Me” angle.

But our son would walk out during the scene where one of the kids gets locked in a room surrounded by clown dolls. A shame, because James would love the story about these outcasts kicking evil clown ass.

You will too. Just don’t expect the clown to be all that evil.

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It’s hard to believe he tore his MCL in March, isn’t it? Four assists, a header to the face, a bloody nose, dribbling through seven players, and too many shots on goal to mention, not to mention this cold the school gave him. He really enjoys playing with this team, and I think this team enjoys playing with him. I know the parents enjoy watching.

The Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies were my pleasure, as were the photos.

The last ride

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Today I dreamed of that Twilight Zone Funhouse, open 24 hours in this mall they’re forever renovating — floor by floor. I took the elevator between 5 and 3, took a number, listened to the spiel from a friendly operator with the paper hat — the kind carnies wore selling hot dogs and cotton candy. This one’s only 30 minutes. That one’s a bit longer, featuring an old Italian actress, Gina Lollobrigida seems about right.

I went with the 30-minute carnival replica, a thrill ride involving a special snack and one helluva twist, took my small bowl and my ticket.

“Small? Most people vomit up 10 pounds when they find out.”

Ten pounds? Vomit?!

What kind of fucking ride was this?

At this point, the carnie pushed an image into my head in an instant: people shoving handfuls of a new confection. Until they felt pieces of tissue on their tongues, mouths tasting of copper.

Another carnie rushed by, muttering, “There are too many preservatives in this confection!”

I hesitated.

“I’ll take the medium,” I said, finally, before one more carnie walked by, lugging a slice of pizza the length of a basketball player.

“Wait, what’s that?”

The elevator opened for me.

 

there

this man, he went to the Big Island without me

not a word

not one word

those months chasing my attention, pretending to be interested in the same things… Spam musubi, Korean soap operas, sunsets on the beach

until my check was in the mail

this woman went off to Maui with a chosen four, the Fab Five, they called it

I used to beg her to go with me, I would’ve paid for everything just to see her smile at Molokini

now, I watch them tell their tales on this computer screen, posts and pictures, the same fucking drivel everyone else taps into

I wish I were there

Runner

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Photo by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

“I see 70-year-old grandmothers jogging all the time. What’s wrong with me that I can’t even walk without pain? I’m only in my early 50s!”

Richard, my physical therapist, says nothing. Perhaps he didn’t hear me. Perhaps he’s being kind. Perhaps, he just doesn’t know.

Treating people is hit and miss, far from the perfect science TV would have us believe. First, they must rule out worst-case scenarios, which my doctor did with an exam and x-rays.

Richard’s a nice, young Korean man. He could be my son or my brother. He’s gentle, kind, and thoughtful. He tries to help. I’m just not sure he can.

It’s week four. Last night, after a series of exercises (12 so far) Richard’s having me do two to three times a day, and another short walk, I felt shooting pain go through my right knee (again?!) with new soreness in my hips — such a strange feeling — everything threatening to come apart. (I’ve never been one to suffer with headaches, back aches or any aches on any part of my limbs, joints.)

Oh, but when I went walking even for a short time, it felt grand. I looked up at the dark blue-to-black sky as best as I could with eyeglasses that could not keep up with my fading eyesight. I breathed in the fresh air, the first in a week since the wildfires.

It was all so, normal. Thank you, baby Jesus!

Yet so fleeting, too, as if plucked from a dream. Somehow, my body appreciated the brief moment of freedom, even if my mind and my heart have grown increasingly feeble.

Forget all of that. Tonight, I try to enjoy a high school football game. I will watch my son joke around with his friends. They will wave at me, maybe coax me into some standup routine (like a trained circus seal). I’m the popular mom, go figure.

Maybe I will let myself enjoy a bag of popcorn.

Later on, I will dream for real, and I will run and run and run until even time cannot stop me.

Their names were Charlie, Linda and Russell

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Photo by Shabu Anower on Unsplash

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s ongoing story raised quite a ruckus in Seattle.

A fifth person, his cousin, came forward recently to accuse Murray of sexual misconduct in the 1970s when the cousin was a teenager back in New York.

After that came to light, Murray made more excuses: “…There’s been numerous fights between our two families for many years, and much ugliness. I guess they see me down and out, and they want to finish me off. [Seattle Times]

Then, he resigned, not wishing to cause the office further negativity, or whatever.

Except for a smattering of people living in and around Seattle, the response overall hasn’t been all that remarkable.

Mayoral candidates kept to the political party line, couching their approval of his resignation in the smoothest of terms, some even semi-complimentary about Murray’s accomplishments.

This didn’t surprise me in the least. This seemed in line with politics as usual, as well as the general response to allegedly Narcissistic behavior.

A few years ago, I broke with a Narcissist who allegedly wreaked havoc in many people’s lives, including my own. This person’s issues were very different from Murray’s, but the behavior in the aftermath lined up.

One after the other, other victims came forward to share similar stories. The Narcissist’s inner circle remained staunchly devoted, spouting the party line, accusing some of us of causing division out of spite, a lack of grace, jealousy. They refused to see a pattern of destructive, alienating behavior — even when the odds were stacked against this Narcissist.

It’s the same pattern with Murray, whether you believe his word or the word of his alleged victims.

A few in the media have bravely stepped forward to align themselves with Murray’s alleged victims, including a popular radio host I listen to regularly.

Yesterday, this radio host admitted to being molested as a child by a neighborhood monster, who had allegedly been attacking other kids. It was very hard for him to do so. So understandable. But he helped hundreds of his listeners feel okay in their bodies.

The radio host’s admission prompted me to look back on my own childhood. What I thought was a well-worn groove. I’d been molested by a teenager in the neighborhood when I was in third grade, then again by a girl from my 6th grade class in her shed, a girl I thought was my best friend. Later on in my senior year of high school, an underclassman forced himself on me during a make-out session in his bedroom.

Unlike most victims of molestation, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need for justice, because, well, it’s me, after all. I know how fucked up that sounds.

I just put the memories away in the bad pile in the back of my mind, along with the times I was caught cheating on a test, suffering from a break-up, my parents’ nasty divorce, walking out on my dad, stuff like that.

My abuse didn’t go too far, just fondling and digital insertion. As for the “date rape,” I blamed myself, because I allowed the situation to get out of hand. In fact, after that initial encounter, I continued to see the guy, pretending I enjoyed sex to make it better in my own fucked-up mind.

I’ve never really confronted those demons in therapy. Didn’t really view them as demons, but sad rites of passage most everyone goes through.

Other demons, yes. Physical and mental abuse at the hands of primarily my father, my mother’s self-centered neglect, the one-sided relationships of people I thought were trusted friends.

I do realize that all the abuse has affected my ability to form close relationships to some extent. The sexual abuse in ways I can’t even imagine or describe fully.

I don’t know how to be normal. I have always been incredibly self-conscious in a sexual situation. I’ve never ever felt sexual, or sexy; the thought of even attempting to be that way fills me with shame. With menopause, the idea of sex has become even more distasteful.

I never really felt comfortable in my own skin, much less skin to skin.

Maybe in my next lifetime, I can work on that.

I hope you don’t judge me, or put me in some PC slot. This Mayor Ed Murray story’s caused me to really start looking at myself without flinching. And you guys know how hard that is for me.

Why I Quit

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Cartoon of me by Scott Bilstad

A few days ago, someone emailed to ask if there was any chance I’d cover soaps again.

My short answer: No way in hell.

The longer one involves the proliferation of stans (slang for overzealous fans) over storytelling, supercouples and stars over the ensemble, and short, repetitious, plot-driven arcs that go nowhere and cheapen human emotion. Plus, just plain burn-out.

I’d been covering ABC Daytime since the turn of the century. I quit last year or the year before. That’s an awful long time to be an industry punching bag, and I was. (The stories I could tell…)

Sure, I could’ve phoned it in. And have. But after one too many nasty encounters with certain fan-based groups, I couldn’t hold on anymore — even for the longtime viewers who knew the difference between fact and fiction.

I’ve noticed this type of stanning spilling over into primetime, reality-TV, and music. Ugly, ugly stuff. Probably why most of Stephen King’s novels fails to make the grade on the big or little screens, too.

Last fall or winter (I forget which), I also quit writing for AXS. I used to write for Examiner before it went belly-up, salvaging a few contributors along the way. After receiving one too many Friday in-house e-newsletters with too many youth-oriented, click-bait-centered online imperatives (over substantive journalism), I’d had enough.

Quite honestly, I didn’t think AXS needed my type of coverage anymore. Their newsletters/mandates seemed geared more toward the younger, SmartPhone crowd following Top 40 trends — not middle-aged dinosaurs like me, plodding along with my outdated jazz and occasionally, the struggling local, alt-indie scene.

So, I did those AXS kids a favor and bowed out, giving up a paying gig ($4 a post, down from several hundred dollars every month in a now-defunct writer program). No worse for wear.

Instead, I took the advice of a few musicians and publicists, and went rogue — on Medium, which fit nicely with my Jazz Medium® concept, i.e., reviewing music like a human tuning fork. My reviews can also be seen via a Medium publication, Festival Peak.

With Medium, I can write more personally. I’m not hampered by word counts, tag requirements, link back to this but not that, contact us for social media assistance if the artist has more than a certain amount of followers, hits, hits, hits, blah, blah, blah.

It’s not much. I probably get about four regular readers a review, including the artist, on average. But it enables me to continue writing, practicing, listening, enjoying… even if it’s under the illusion of productivity. Ha.

Besides, I learned from my years as a PCO/SoapZone columnist with close to a six-figure readership that it’s better to stay under the radar lest I attract negative attention from stanning trolls.

What’s cool about this free and easy gig is I help artists get the word out to their fans. Some of the artists have pulled quotes from my reviews for their websites and promotional materials. Interviews I’ve done have come in handy when one of them wanted to generate interest from publicists, club managers, more listeners.

So far, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, especially since I call my own shots when I can spare the time. As long as that happens, I’m in.

Artists and at least three of the publicists I’ve dealt with in the past were extremely supportive of my decision to go rogue. They don’t count Medium as less-than in any way. A venue’s a venue, whether it’s in a big stadium (AXS), or a Mexican restaurant in the middle of the suburbs (my Medium blog).

They continue to seek me out, whenever I’m available. I appreciate that.

Enjoy for as long as you have me.

Phrygian Mode

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the monsters are real,

I find them staring back at me with raccoon eyes

we are but the sum of a mathematical equation, beauty, 5+5

notes on a page, an interlude arranged by a higher power — Zeus or the Wizard of Oz

these storytellers, they tried to tell us in fairy tales to cushion the blow

a spoonful of sugar, right?

I was never born

I was hatched, except the cocoon came from parts made in Japan, meant for the sex trafficking trade, the one the authorities cannot yet find

none of this matters anyway

a footnote, a place-holder, a means to an end, while the rich men laugh all the way to the bank

and here I am, unable to make change, because these quarters keep changing into the faces of foreign leaders, a game show host marking time, dots, lines, and edges of Groupon

my right hand an open vagina able to take all of him in, a vaguely familiar stranger, the anorexic covers random Jons make from a spare Saturday night before the wife and kids, “stop,” he says, “right there,” it’s too late for what they call LOVE

will he spill over, over steak and lobster, and their busy talk

the sensual music fades away, as a new record begins in diminished 5th — the forbidden portal

I am called into another room altogether, dressed up like a nightclub

lured inside by the promise of steak frites, and friendship

I obey, a cog in their machine, so certain of my own mindful mortality

 

Ursa Minor

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Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

“This is for you.” He handed me a pen, one you could get anywhere for about $5, or maybe free if you sit through three hours of timeshare. “Write me a story. I don’t care if it’s real or fiction.”

“You must not care if anybody (but you) reads the story, then,” I quipped.

“Stop joking.” The intensity of his eyes — blue? green? hazel? Why have I never noticed before? “You hide behind 10,000 other people, you know. But your words, they refuse to go to bed.”

“Those words are better, the ones you just said to me.” More deflection. Why is he looking at me like that? What does he want?

I can’t, I won’t fuck him. We’re too old for back-seat sex. I wouldn’t know what to do anyway, I — I never did.

“I know you mean well, but I don’t have a story in me. If you know of a good musician who recently put out an album worth listening to, I’m your man,” I added.

Something flashed in those cavernous eyes, and suddenly we were standing side by side on top of a mountain, on the back deck by the Pacific Ocean, under the stars, sleek and stark and black and brilliant. He took my left hand in his, gently lifting it heavenward, pointing toward the Northernmost tip of a constellation. The beacons of light twinkled.

“I love you,” he said. “You don’t know that, either. But you will.”